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NCAA Tournament Recap (Oklahoma-Michigan St)

Posted: Sat March 20, 1999 at 1:17 a.m EST

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Andre Hutson scored 12 points as top-seeded Michigan State overcame a brutal performance from star guard Mateen Cleaves and defeated Oklahoma, 54-46, in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region semifinals.

Sixth man Morris Peterson added 11 points and A.J. Granger had all 10 of his off the bench in the first half for the Spartans (32-4), who won despite Cleaves shooting 3-of-14 from the field. The star guard managed just nine points and two assists.

"We couldn't get our break going and couldn't get any offensive rebounds," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo. "In the second half, we made a decision that we had to let Mateen penetrate a little more. We did a better job at their penetration."

Michigan State, which won its school-record 21st straight game, is in the regional final for the first time since 1979, when Magic Johnson led the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament title. Johnson was in attendance, rooting for his alma mater.

Michigan State will play either and defending champion Kentucky in the regional final Sunday.

Michael Johnson scored 12 points and Ryan Humphrey added 10 for Oklahoma (22-11), which was thwarted in its bid to be the first seed to reach the regional final. The Sooners, who were the lowest at-large seed in the NCAA Tournament, was just the third 13th seed to reach the regional semifinals since the field expanded to 64 in 1985.

"We know who we are... good or bad, we put up a fight," said Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson. "We're fighters and scrapers and have good discipline. Maybe we're not everybody wants us to be. You gotta find ways to win and we've got a lot of heart."

The two big-conference teams put on a bruising display of basketball in the first half as physical play dominated. The Sooners led 23-19 after two free throws by Eduardo Najera with 3:11 to go, but the Spartans scored seven of the final nine points, including a driving lay-in by Cleaves right before time expired to give the Spartans a 26-25 halftime lead.

Charlie Bell started the second half with a 3-pointer before Cleaves had a lay-up and added a free throw to make it 32-25 at the 17:04 mark.

Two free throws by Johnson pulled Oklahoma within 36-31, but both teams received a huge scare when Cleaves ran into Najera as the Sooners forward tried to set a screen. Cleaves' forehead smacked into Najera's chin as the two went sprawling in opposite directions with 9:30 to go.

"I've had some collisions in my life, but that ranks among the top of them. I didn't see him coming and it felt like I ran into the wall. I'm happy the guy that both guys are all right."

The game was delayed almost 10 minutes, and Najera took the worst of it, bleeding from his chin and sustaining a Grade I concussion. Michigan State pushed the lead to 41-31 on a 3-pointer by Bell and dunk by Peterson with 8:35 left.

"I'm having difficulty talking because my jaw is hurting," admitted Najera. "It's too bad when I came back that I couldn't do anything for my team. I'm glad we had the opportunity without me on the court to beat Michigan State."

But Oklahoma clawed within 45-40, and Najera stunned everyone by coming back from the locker room after taking six stitches and re-entering the game with 4:25 remaining. Hutson made two free throws, but Alex Spaulding hit a driving lay-in and Humphrey made the second of two free throws to draw the Sooners to 47-43 with 1:41 to play.

Cleaves forced a 3-pointer, but Johnson missed one on the other end. Hutson sank two free throws, and after another missed 3-pointer by Eric Martin, Peterson and Cleaves combined to hit 3-of-4 from the line to push the lead to 52-43 with 21 seconds left.

The Spartans held a 36-31 rebounding advantage and shot only 40 percent (18-of-45) from the field. Granger was 4-of-5 from the field and hit both his 3-point tries. Peterson was 4-of-9 and both players grabbed seven rebounds.

Oklahoma shot only 33 percent (17-of-51) from the floor and 4-of-15 from 3-point range. Martin, who averages 12.4 points per game, was 1-of-8 from the field and did not score until a meaningless 3-pointer in the final seconds.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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